Emma Miller on the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund

We have a guest post today from Emma Miller.  Though most people raised Amish end up joining an Amish church, a certain percentage for one reason or another do not.  Here’s Emma writing about a new organization she’s started for former Amish:

Emma Miller Amish ScholarshipI grew up Amish in a small town in Missouri, the 6th child out of 12. I have many fond memories of summer nights playing with my siblings and day-long escapades in our 40 acres of wooded property, catching tadpoles in the idyllic creek that murmured its way through. I was aware that there was a different lifestyle out there, but I was confident that ours was the best.

Then I turned 13 and finished my 8 years of education in the little, one-roomed school house down the road from my house. There was nothing left in my future except to stay home and learn the skills needed to be an Amish wife someday. Today I can value those skills but then I had a head full of dreams and I wanted to go to high school, maybe even college someday. I wanted to travel and learn other languages and meet people from all over the world. I don’t know where these longings came from, but as they say, the heart wants what it wants.

I left the Amish community when I was 16. My first few years were just focused on working and keeping afloat but when I turned 18, I moved to San Diego which is where I got my GED and started taking classes at the community college. It took me many years but eventually I graduated from San Diego State University with a BA in Economics. I was so emotional on my graduation day; I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it!

Amish School MissouriI vowed to start a scholarship fund and a support network for other Amish people who decide to leave and go to college. I teamed up with a few other former-Amish students who have the same goal and we formed the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund (ADSFund) and we’re hoping to award our first scholarship this June. Trying to get a GED on an 8th grade education and going to college without parental support is very hard to do. It is my greatest wish that this fund will be successful and be able to help those in need.

To learn more about ADSFund please go to ADSFund.weebly.com or contact me at emmamiller.adsfund.@gmail.com. We appreciate your donations and support.

Thanks to Emma for sharing with us today.  She welcomes your comments and questions about the fund, or her background growing up Amish in Missouri.

Missouri Amish school photo credit: Beth Russo

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    1. Richard from Amish Stories

      Now just try and be happy....

      It seems that leaving the Amish with an 8th grade education would defentilty be a disadvantage if your trying to pursue a high school and especially a college education on the outside, so setting-up a fund like this would make pretty good sense to me. I also think the Amish would be better off having someone who is not miserable and sad being Amish in the long run, so the decision that you made seems like a very good one for you. So you were honest with yourself and with the Amish and now your in a better place it seems in your life, and i wish you the best of luck and just try and be happy. Richard

      1. Emma

        Thank you all so much for your comments and support.

        It’s such an inspiration to me to share this dream with others and get positive feedback. I know the fund will help students who are in need as many of them cannot apply for financial aid because their parents are required to fill out the paperwork until the student is 24 and many Amish parents wouldn’t be comfortable doing that. We will be very excited to announce our scholarship winner/s so you can see who has benefited from ADSFund.

        As for my personal life – I’m very happy to say that I have enjoyed my life very much so far. I am currently studying a Masters degree and living in London, UK. I have very much enjoyed traveling and studying languages from around the world – even Chinese!

        I have a pretty good relationship with my family although there is an understandable gulf between us. I go visit them quite regularly and it is always wonderful to see them. There are times where I long for a closer relationship – especially on occasions such as my graduation but I do have a wonderful support network of loving friends and some family members who have left the Amish as well. All in all, I have been very blessed.

        1. Marc Caldwell

          You are an amazing young woman!

          I just watched the Devil’s Playground as I am sure many who’ve commented. And to see the journey that you’ve chosen to make is inspiring and brave. You are a most humble servant of God.

    2. Robin M.

      You followed your dream Emma. I’m sure that doing this took a lot of soul searching, emotions and above all, you are a very brave young woman. As the Amish say, it was God’s will for you. I was just wondering of you still have a relationship with your family back home? Sending you best wishes on the scholarship fund endeavour and all of those who are able to take advantage of it. What a wonderful idea!

    3. Emma, this is such a fabulous idea! Thank you so much for following your dreams, then turning around and making such a dream possible for others.

      Loved your post… beautiful images you evoked, and also the longing for more education… I know these conflicting feelings well.

      Many Blessings for success with this venture!


      1. Emma Miller

        Thank you, Saloma! It’s been great getting in touch with you through this. Thank you for your encouragement and inspiration.

      2. Brenda Nixon

        ASCF - Great Vision

        Saloma & Emma – you both are inspirations to me! I serve former-Amish helping them transition to our society, assist with getting birth certificate, SS#, finding food, jobs, a place to live, and a feeling of welcome and love. I’m an English mom to a son, Mosie.
        As for GED; I’ve tried helping some of “my boys” work on their GED but, as you pointed out Emma, earning a GED with an 8th grade education and no parental support is extremely difficult. Also, since Amish are ESL (English as Second Langauge), some of the GED subjects are beyond their understanding. I’ve explained many terms and homework assignments. We rejoice with any former-Amish who earns his/her GED.
        Saloma – I sent you an email days ago and haven’t heard back. Hope it’s not floating in cyberspace. Try checking your spam folder.

    4. tlc slp

      Good for you!

      This is a great idea. It seems like, from what I’ve learned, women who leave the faith are at a particular disadvantage because of the 8th grade rule. Showing support for those who need it to further their education is certainly a Godly pursuit! Even though you don’t “live” Amish, you certainly show your upbringing in being determined and in helping others.

    5. Lee Ann

      Emma, be proud of yourself for following your dream. So many give up that dream in order to please others. I applaud you for setting up the scholorship program to help others to further their education.

      I hope you get all the financial help you need to keep this afloat. Congratulations on keeping with your goals through the thick of things.

    6. Margaret

      I’m proud of you! You are following your dream, without trashing the dreams of those who decide to stay in the Amish lifestyle. That shows maturity and strength of character. Your parents raised a wonderful woman!

    7. Annmarie

      Congratulations. I loved your quote…the heart wants what the heart wants. That is so true and applies to all of us. Lots of luck in your future endeavors!!!

    8. Anne

      Having been a public school teacher, and having educated my own kids through home schooling, and now having more of an inside look at the 8th grade education the Amish child receives (through my son), I think we need not underestimate the value of that education, even if it only goes through what is considered a “lower” grade level. When compared to our public schools, that 8th grade education is probably comparable to our high school education. At least in many communities…

      1. Emma Miller

        Hi Anne,

        I agree with you. Since our time in the classroom was very structured and quiet, we put our time at school to good use. I also think our students were used to growing up in a strict environment so there were less behavioral problems that you might find in a public school. Some topics probably came close to a high school level by the time we finish 8th grade. But then there were other topics that we didn’t study at all and I spent a number of years catching up on. We never studied any science so that was a bit of a stretch for me, but I had good reading comprehension so I was able to catch up quickly. Where I really struggled initially was Math as we just learned the basics. I spent years taking pre-college Math classes to catch up. At that time I never dreamed that I would end up studying a Math degree!

    9. SharonR


      What a delightful story! I applaud Emma for following her dreams, and having the guts to do it, but still remembering her heritage. This is an excellent idea for a young woman, to set up a scholarship for those others who want to expand their knowledge of the world, but have no means of doing so. God Bless You!

    10. Julie Turner

      asking a question

      Hi Emma,
      I understand that you felt you had to do what you had to do, but if you don’t mind, can I ask where your faith stands now?
      Do you still go to church?

    11. Mary

      Scholarship Fund & PBS Special

      Emma, what a super idea. Love the ‘net, great way to find each other and communicate. Sent you a msg on ADS.

      Saloma, so looking forward to the PBS special on 28th. Mary

    12. Ed

      Congratulations Emma on following your dreams and starting a scholarship. Your scholarship is such a great idea and no doubt will benefit so many young people who otherwise would not have been able to attend college. Good luck with the Chinese lessons, let the world hear your story!

    13. What you are doing is good!

      What a wonderful thing you are doing, and I am sure those who benefit from it are very appreciative. I live near the Lancaster, PA Amish community and always felt it a shame that those who wanted to continue their education were not permitted to do so. In my opinion, our Creator gave each of us different gifts, and some of us need the extended education. I would think an Amish physician could be a good thing, yet it doesn’t happen, or a teacher with better credentials than her oldest student. I will never understand all the rules, but do know I applaud what you are doing!

      1. Brenda Nixon

        Nancy, I agree with your comments. Our Creator gave us individual talents; it is a shame not to explore and embrace those different potentials.

        Emma, someone asked about your faith these days. If you don’t mind sharing, curious minds want to know. Thank you.

    14. Alice Mary

      Brave beginning!

      Emma, good luck to you, Naomi and William as you launch this noble endeavor. What a waste it is when a young person with God-given talent is not allowed to nurture that talent and in doing so help their fellow man! I would be honored to help in what little way I can toward making that first scholarship a reality.

      I hope you’ll share the outcome with us through this blog via Erik.

      Just a couple of questions: How did you end up in the UK, and do you intend to stay there?

      God bless!

      Alice Mary

      1. Emma Miller

        Thank you all for your encouragement, it means so much to me! I ended up in the UK because my boyfriend lives here. We were long distance for quite some time so I moved here to do a Masters after I graduated from San Diego State. I really like it here and I expect I’ll be here for a while but it makes it very challenging for me to make this scholarship fund happen. Luckily I have Naomi and Will in the states to help me spread the word as well, as well as other people who have asked how they could help.

    15. ann

      I well remember being a junior high kid and watching my mom (both my parents grew up Amish) work hard in the evenings as she finally got her GED. She didn’t go on to college (I’m not sure she wanted to) but she was so proud of her GED… and we were, too.
      What Emma is doing is fantastic! All the best to her in this endeavor!

      1. Emma Miller

        Hi Ann, that’s fantastic, I’m proud of your mom for her hard work and determination. It’s not easy to pursue a GED after being out of school for so many years. Thanks for sharing that, it is a touching story.

    16. OldKat

      Good job, Emma

      One of the things I feel strongest about is that people should pursue what interests them and not be limited by circumstances, or rather let circumstances limit them. To that end, this is a great service that your organization is aiming to provide. I will have to visit your website and learn more about this.

      Best of luck in your graduate studies.

    17. Emma Miller

      Erik was right when he said his readers are a very nice group of people! Thank you all so much. I will make sure to keep you updated as we move forward. Please feel free to contact me anytime at emmamiller.adsfund@gmail.com or for more information, go to wwww.adsfund.weebly.com

      Thank you for hosting this post, Erik! You have been so helpful and I hope we can meet someday. I don’t think I have ever met an “Englischer” that has such accurate insight on Amish life. Keep up the good work!

    18. It sounds like a great idea, Emma!

    19. Valerie

      Did this challenge your faith Emma?

      Emma, not sure if you are still reading this but your story was fascinating, especially the determination you had to have.

      My husband & I were talking about it-how many people we know whose children these days walk away from their faith after college as we listen to our Christian friends speak of their own children.

      Did you find that your faith was challenged with what professors are teaching these days? Especially not going to a Christian college?

      I can tell the professors have been very influential in the lives of young people, challenging Biblical teachings. Just wondered if you found that to be true (my sister teaches in San Dieogo colleges!)

      Also was wondering, with so many from the UK now interested in Amish, I imagine they will take great interest in you and find it perplexing that you left, as they seem to be drawn to Amish lifestyles after all the documentaries they’ve shown.

    20. Carolyn B

      Emma, like the rest of this group, I applaud your endeavor to help others. As one who would love to be a “professional student” and never stop learning, I feel for you and others who will come after you who will want this knowledge of education.

    21. MMR

      So happ you are doing well Emma and Faron I would love to know how your life has been since that very moving and personal documentary you two were in.I didnt know much about the Amish and while watching it I always appreciated you two putting yourself out there and being so honest about your personal struggles. It takes courage and I would love an update on how life has been for you Faron if you feel like opening that book again!

    22. Harriet

      Very impressive! I am pleased to hear this, I think it is great and amazing you managed to get yourself through and get a degree and also learn languages and travel like you dreamed of. It is even more amazing to hear you are helping others. I always thought the lack of education past 8th grade would be a terrible burden for children who do not want to stay Amish, and is quite unfair.

    23. Raelynn Reed

      Kudos to you, Emma!

      Your life journey is amazing. To have grown up as an Amish girl who is now studying for a Master’s degree shows incredible hard work and determination. Your scholarship fund is a brilliant idea and will give needed financial help to exAmish. Continue following your dreams!

      I live in Delaware and teach English to foreign children. The best part of my job is helping students and their families adapt to life in the US. In addition to donating to your scholarship fund, please let me know if there are organizations in nearby Lancaster, PA to help exAmish get their GEDs.


      1. Emma

        Hi Raelynn,

        Thanks for your support and kind words. I don’t know of any organizations in the Lancaster area that help exAmish get their GEDs. I know that MAP in Ohio (http://www.mapministry.org/) support Amish when they’re leaving the community and help them with those types of things but I don’t know any others. We hope to act as a support group so anyone can ask us questions or advice but it would be nice for them to have a local contact. I’m not from the Lancaster area though, so there could very well be organizations that I’m not aware of.

        If there’s anything else I can help you with, feel free to email me at emmamiller.adsfund.@gmail.com

        1. Valerie

          Similar Ministry in PA

          Emma & others:
          There is a similar ministry in PA that may help formers.
          Plain New Life
          P.O. Box 267
          Elverson, PA 19520

          1. Emma

            Hi Valerie,

            Great, thanks for that information. I’ll try to get in touch with them as well.

      2. Emma

        Accepting Online Donations

        Just a quick update for those of you that are interested. We are now able to accept online donations for the Fall 2012 ADSF Scholarship at http://giving.mennoniteusa.org/organization/detail/4407

        Just as before, all your donations will go towards the scholarship minus the 3% credit card fee. The Mennonite church is not withholding any money for themselves. We appreciate your help!

    24. Shannon


      Are you still a christian? I pray you still are.

      1. Lindsay

        Why does it matter if she still is or not? This scholarship is an excellent idea, and one I plan on contributing to as well. I hope that the level of Christianty one still holds is not a barrier in ones willingness to mete out help to those in need.

    25. Julia


      I grew up mennonite/amish mennonite/horse and buggy amish(although they dont call themselves amish)/charity. Yes, I grew up traveling all over the states and even Ontario, Canada. When I was 8 till I was 12 we went to an amish church. We lived without electricity and running water. Then when I was 12 my father passed away from Cancer. After my father passed away my mother got married to a man that was charity. His wife had passed away from cancer as well. He had 11 children, and there was 9 children in my family. My family did not believe in getting an education. So I was homeschooled all my life. I only went to the 8th grade. SO when I turned 17, I decided to leave and pursue a higher education. It took many hard hours of studying and much help from by boyfriend before I finaly recieved my GED.I was SO PROUD of myself! Once that was finished I started going to college to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse. I am currently in clinicals for my LPN. This can be vary challanging at times because I do not have any contact with my family(other than a sister some times). I am very very thankful for my boyfriend and his family who have been supporting me through this all. Thank you Emma for the AMAZING work you are doing!

    26. Emma

      Hi Julia – thanks for sharing your story. I’m so happy that you are following your dream and you have found people who support and encourage you along the way. Please keep in touch – my email is emmamiller.adsfund@gmail.com.

      We are having a Hog roast fundraiser in Nappanee, Indiana. For those of you in the area that are interested in going, please find the information here. http://adsfund.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/fundraiser-in-indiana-join-fun.html

    27. Lamar Miller

      Thank You!

      Emma, I just wanted to say I love this idea; I think there should be more information out there for Amish descendants who want to pursue a higher education. I was raised Amish in the Nappanee area and decided that I wanted more than the 8th grade education I had. I got my GED when I was 17, and then went on to receive my AS in Business Administration this past fall. It was a tough trail to blaze, and I had to figure out much of the enrollment processes, FAFSA, etc., by myself, since I did not have any other family members who had ever gone to college. I was fortunate enough to have the support of my family, however, and even though they would have rather seen me go back to the Amish way of life, they accepted my decisions and were supportive all through college.
      Again, I just wanted to give both you and Naomi a big thank you for what you’re doing, I’m planning on attending the fundraiser in Nappanee this Friday night. I hope to see a big turnout there!

      1. Emma

        HI Lamar, thanks for your comment. I’m happy to hear you’ll be at the event on Friday night. Naomi is working so hard on this and I admire her getting this whole thing together. I wish I could be there! I hope to see lots of pictures.

        Congrats on getting your AS. I know what you mean – trying to figure out the enrolment process was so overwhelming. I’m so grateful to community colleges because I would never have been able to get into a 4 year university right off the back. If you know any former Amish students, please send them our way because we’re going to start accepting applications for the scholarship as soon as the fundraiser is over. All the best to you!

    28. Rick Migliore

      Great Job!

      Entertainment Weekly recently named “Devil’s Playground” as one of the “50 best movies you’ve never seen.” I just finished watching it and it is a great movie! I applaud your work helping Amish who have left the church get an education.

      1. Thanks Rick! We were very excited to give our first two scholarships recently. It made all the hard work worth it.

    29. mia


      hello emma, this story is an inspiration. just wondering if you and faron are still together? and what he is doing now? hope he got a new car hehe

    30. Charles E. Miller, Jr.

      Emma Miller

      Fraeulein Miller,

      ich wuensche Ihnen all das Beste.

      Ms. Miller,

      I wish you all the best.

      Charles Miller, BA, Old Dominion University, MA, Liberty University